the Carmel

Study on Isidore Guérin

Isidore Guérin (born January 2, 1841) and his two sisters, Marie-Louise and Zélie, were the children of one of those many French families marked by the rural exodus at the beginning of the XNUMXth century.
The Guérins are farmers; they migrated, from generation to generation (their father was already a policeman, after having served the Emperor as a soldier) from the countryside of Orne to his Prefecture, Alençon.

Isidore took advantage of the establishment of public education and its flagship: the Napoleonic high school. He obtained the baccalaureates in literature and science in 1860 and 1863. This training enabled him to enter the Ecole Supérieure de Pharmacie de Paris and then to become a first-class pharmacist in 1866. By buying a pharmacy in Lisieux (as well as a drugstore in 1870, which was burnt down in 1873), he slipped into the ranks of Lexovian notables.

His marriage, in some respects strategic, on September 11, 1866, to Céline Fournet, a descendant of a family of manufacturers from Lisieux, further strengthened his social position. The constable's son has become a notable as evidenced by his appointment to the Department's Health Council. Unquestionably, he is "the" important character of the Martin and Guérin families during the lifetime of Saint Thérèse.

Documents preserved in the Theresian fund of the archives of the Carmel monastery of Lisieux testify to this notability:

  • Like many other notables of his time, he held a book of reason to collect in writing both what he inherits from his ancestors and what he brings to the posterity he hopes for. Significant events, acquisitions, stages of his private or public life are listed chronologically. Head of the family, he collates, according to the same chronological logic, everything concerning the members of his family, direct or by marriage. Paradoxically, this self-proclaimed family head (the book of reason is a private production) will die childless. A stillborn only son, Paul, a first daughter, Jeanne, married but without biological offspring, and a second, Marie, a Carmelite who died prematurely, will make him a patriarch without posterity.
  • A photographic print, placed in the first pages of the book of reason, keeps track of another representation of this constructed notability. A family tree  brings together the ancestry and descendants of the pharmacist from Lisieux. The imaginary roots (an improbable alliance with a “Guérin” family) and an aborted summit (a Carmelite medallion of his daughter) synthesize the strength and fragility of Isidore's journey.
  • Other shots make us relive the pleasures of vacationing experienced by the Martin and Guérin families. Elegant and radiant silhouettes pose in front of the place par excellence of social distinction: a castle. Indeed, in 1888, the Guérins inherited in joint ownership of the Musse Castle, in Eure, bought 25 years earlier by a first cousin of Céline Fournet's mother. But the same transience will strike this symbolic good. It will be sold to an aristocrat in 1899, before becoming a sanatorium in 1932. Currently it houses a detoxification center for alcoholics. 

If Isidore Guérin was successful, he also suffered in his flesh (the disease did not spare him), in his heart and in his hopes. His personality will only be richer. This notable is a sentimental and gentle man. Committed and generous, his intransigent convictions, marked with the seal of a narrow ideology, will lead him to fight sometimes dubious battles with regard to our appeased democratic opinions. The slow emergence of the Republic, on the ruins of the Monarchy and the Empire, facing a restive and clerical Catholic Church, helps to understand the nationalist and anti-Semitic excesses of its journalistic activity. 

Isidore Guérin received a Christian education, but all that faded during his studies in Paris. His sister, Marie-Dosithée, from the monastery of the Visitation of Le Mans where she is a nun, must recommend to him, not without humor, to frequent the sanctuary of Notre Dame des Victoires, Refuge of sinners. The correspondence of the visitandine and the carabin preserves the memory of seances of spiritualism that Isidore seems to prefer to the churches of the Capital. After his marriage, Isidore will no longer go to Easter Mass. Slowly he poured into the atheism of the elites of the 1874th century. That said, he will later develop a real religion, just as typical of these notables of a painfully nascent Republic. Their nostalgia for the religious harmony of the Old Regime is patent. All their efforts tend to restore what the Revolution has swayed. They build a Society of combat and defense against the Society of Human Rights and the Republican Triad: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity. Isidore will thus multiply membership in sociabilities of restoration and repair. He will be from all the circles of Christian notables contributing to the creation of works allowing access to culture and religion for the poorest. In 1900, he founded the Saint Vincent de Paul Conference in Lisieux, which combines prayer with charitable action. The same year, he joined the parish factory. Thus, with other lay people, he will manage the material goods of his community of Faith. When he founded the Cercle Catholique, it was to bring together friends who loved spiritual books. This Society of Christian notables devotes itself to the maintenance of the religious in the social and public space, threatened by the secularist spirit. Ad intra, these devout Catholics spread the practice of Nocturnal Adoration. Ad extra, they protect the Brothers of the Christian Schools when they are persecuted. A Calvary, erected at the expense of Isidore Guérin, still stands today at the entrance to the Commune of Lisieux. This urban sentinel is the perfect summary of this dedication to the cause of religion in the republican space. That said, this zeal, entirely external, is rooted in a true baptismal consecration: on September XNUMX, XNUMX, Isidore committed himself forever to the Carmelite Third Order under the name of Brother Elijah of the Blessed Sacrament.

Finally, Saint Thérèse's uncle was also a publicist who spread his opinions and those of his community. From 1891 to 1896, he became a journalist. Numerous articles published in Le Normand, which he relaunched financially and of which he will be the editorial writer, testify to his political commitment. Its ideology is revealed. He poses as a defender of the Church and of the moral Order, not without the excesses inherent in this agonistic public opinion. Nationalism and anti-Semitism simultaneously defend the closest, the soil, and the purest, the blood against so many imaginary enemies: the foreigner, the stateless, the supposedly deicidal Jew.

After a long illness, Isidore Guérin died in Lisieux in 1909, on September 28 - shortly before the opening of the Trial of the Ordinary for his niece Thérèse...

Brother Marc Fortin, ocd